A devoted husband has spoken about how he took the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to court to win back the vital benefits denied to his disabled wife.
Leslie Kirkland, who is himself a pensioner, successfully had a cruel decison by the DWP to stop his wife’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP) over-turned at a social security tribunal, and not wants the case to serve as an example on how take on the DWP and win.
Mr Kirkland provides round-the-clock care for his wife Sonya (51) who has severe mental health issues and suffers from regular seizures due to living with epilepsy, both of which severely impact on her ability to live independently.
But despite her obvious frailties, the DWP took the cruel decision in January 2018 to stop her PIP payments, claiming she wasn’t ill enough to qualify for the necessary support.
Despite two failed attempts in asking the DWP to reconsider their decision, in a process known as ‘manadatory reconsideration, Mr Kirkland refused to back down and appealed the case to tribunal.
“I told them I have to do everything for her – I do the cooking and help her wash”, he told the local press.
“She can’t do paperwork or drive – she is totally dependent on me.”
He continued: “Then we got a letter saying she wouldn’t get PIP anymore because she didn’t have any problems and that she could drive. The report was all wrong.
“I twice appealed against the decision and they still wouldn’t let her have it. You can then appeal to the court but that can take up to 15 months and we wouldn’t have survived that long.
“I wrote to our MP Karen Bradley for help to bring the appeal forward. I asked for all my wife’s data from the DWP and went through it with a fine tooth comb.”
The tribunal ruled that Sonya had “severely limited ability to carry out activities of daily living and mobility activities”, and ordered the DWP reinstate her PIP benefits.
Figures released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) earlier this year reveal that a record 72% of negative PIP decisions are overturned in favour of claimants on appeal to a social security tribunal.
Mr Kirkland said: “I found a letter in all her data that showed she has always had epilepsy and seizures which I showed to the court.”
“I would advise anyone in the same position to get all their data so they have evidence – the DWP seems to miss things”, said Mr Kirkland.
However, the whole experience had a devastating impact on the couple.
“While this was going on we were really struggling”, said Mr Kirkland.
“We have no family around to help us. I felt terrible taking benefits but I have worked all my life and now I have just got my pension.
“We feel safe at the moment but we don’t know what the DWP is going to do next.
“She is never going to get better and all this has made her mental health problems worse. It’s a never-ending battle.”
A DWP spokesperson refused to comment on the individual case, but added: “We are committed to ensuring people get the right decision on their PIP claim and will continue to look at how we can improve the process.
“Since PIP was introduced there have been 3.7 million decisions made and of these only five per cent have been overturned at appeal.
“In most successful appeals, decisions are overturned because people have submitted more evidence.”